What a flag means
by Sharon Higa | June 14, 2022
When my dad and uncles passed, the American flag was ceremoniously folded and presented to our family as these men were World War II veterans who served this country proudly as nisei, second generation Japanese-Americans. In his dorm room at Baylor University in Texas, my nephew proudly displayed the Hawaiian flag to honor his home state and his father’s Native Hawaiian roots.
Flag Day is commemorated on June 14 but is not a national holiday. It is, however, a day to honor the national flag while reminding us of hard-won freedom and independence. Flags are symbolic to every country and every cause, and their colors and design stir emotions in the hearts of their people and followers. On this Flag Day, we celebrate all flags around the world with some interesting facts.
- According to scholars, the American flag was actually designed by Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross though she remains an icon in American history who repaired uniforms and sewed tents during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Hopkinson was a New Jersey delegate who signed the Declaration of Independence.
- The 50-star American flag was first raised on July 4, 1960, by then President Eisenhower and an Ohio high school student credited with designing the new flag. The student turned in his design as a history class project before Alaska and Hawaii were states. He also sent the flag to his congressman, Walter Moeller, who presented it to Eisenhower after Alaska and Hawaii achieved statehood. Eisenhower selected the design as the national flag, and the teacher quickly changed the student’s grade from B- to A.
- The Hawaiian flag originated in 1816, commissioned at the request of King Kamehameha I. The eight horizontal stripes represent the main Hawaiian Islands, while the colors of the flag in alternating stripes are said to symbolize Hawaiian gods (red), truth (white) and the ocean (blue). Hawaii’s state flag resembles the Union Jack of Great Britain due to the islands’ historic relationship with the country.
- In the early 2000s, Gene Simeona of Honolulu unearthed in the Hawaii State Archives what may have been an original native Hawaiian flag with stripes of green, red and yellow, with a shield at the center composed of a kahili — the original Hawaiian royal standard — and canoe paddles crossed over one another representing the voyaging tradition of native Hawaiians. Simeona stated the color scheme was symbolic of the Hawaiian society, with yellow representing the alii, spirituality and alertness to danger; red representing the landed konohiki who serve the alii, genealogy and strength; and green, to represent the commoner, the land and goodness.
- According to flagpictures.com (notably based on subjective opinion), the top seven most recognizable flags in the world are: U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan and France.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest continuously used national flag is that of Denmark. The design of a white Scandinavian cross on a red backdrop was adopted in 1625 and the square shape in 1748.
- The rainbow flag is displayed in many cultures around the world as a sign of diversity and inclusiveness; the pink ribbon flag symbolizes breast cancer awareness; and the international red cross represents humanitarian aid without any discrimination based on nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
On this Flag Day, what flag speaks to you?
Sharon Higa is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.